As a 68-year-old male with an underlying medical condition (mild high blood pressure) I made a point of taking all COVID-19 precautions seriously. Social distancing, hand and surface hygiene and, most importantly, wearing a mask.
I’d educated myself on the known realities of COVID-19, was smart, disciplined and aware. And from March 16, when I flew back from Guatemala ahead of the world closing down, till early August, it worked.
Then I got, in a word, stupid. I had looked both ways before stepping off curbs, so to speak, thousands of times, only to forget once. I didn’t wear a mask during a 30-minute car trip to and from a winery in Michigan in early August and, bam!, 96 hours later I had COVID-19.
Back home on Wednesday, Aug. 19, I suddenly felt very tired, with mild but persistent labored breathing and a frustrating dry cough. No fever or headache, but absolutely no energy either.
Three days later, I realized I couldn’t smell or taste food. A few days after that, my nephew’s girlfriend came back positive, and the next day my sister-in-law tested positive. My brother, who did not accompany us to the winery, tested negative, as did the other two people in our vacation party.
I wish I could tell you what I was thinking, but the truth is, I wasn’t thinking. And I’m paying for it.
Two weeks after the first symptoms, I developed a fever for the first time. It went from 99.6 to 100.4 over three hours. Acetaminophen brought it back down to 99.6.
This is scary stuff, being at once able to breathe in slowly and fully, yet not making a difference in my energy level. My routine settled into water, rest, sleep, monitor symptoms and take acetaminophen at night.
My doctor referred to the many variables related to COVID as “nebulous,” but he stressed hydration, and monitoring my temperature and blood oxygen.
After feeling better this past Monday and Tuesday, I went shopping for basic necessities. After all, the nurse from the IDPH had told me, under their protocols, I was considered “off quarantine” as of Aug. 31.
Wrong. I don’t care what someone from the state or local health department tells you, if you have any symptoms at all, stay home, stay down, and rest. Because Tuesday night it all went to hell and I felt worse than at any time since the second day of my COVID symptoms: 101 degree fever, heavy fatigue, and a largely unproductive cough.
My concern now is not that I’ll die, or even be hospitalized. My fears are of potential damage to my lungs and heart. This virus has killed dozens of firefighters and cops, not exactly your general image of “snowflakes.” Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson said he “had a rough go” battling COVID symptoms. Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez described his experience with covid-19 as feeling “like I was 100 years old.” Rodriguez continues to suffer from myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle.
We’ll just have to wait and see in my case.
As I finish writing this piece on Friday, Sept. 4, I am feeling better than I’ve felt since I fell ill. After getting my symptoms update Friday, my doctor called movement of my symptoms “A pretty typical course.”
He said the general medical wisdom is to quarantine until experiencing a day free of fever and cough. For me, he suggested three or four days free of fever or cough before rejoining the world.
To those who haven’t contracted COVID-19, I have this to say; look both ways before stepping off the curb, every time, no exceptions. Because there’s a big old bus out there just waiting to run you over the moment you get stupid.